CHENNAI: When your child has been battling death for five straight days in the ICU, there are few things that can offer a sliver of happiness. Through their contrasting bouts of prayerful silence and numbing fear, Murugan’s family experienced just that feeling. And it’s all thanks to one simple hashtag - #HelpBabyBala.
A concerted twitter and facebook appeal for funding for the surgery of this sick child, has raised a whopping Rs.7.73 lakh in the last 6 days - with actors Vijay and Sivakarthikeyan having chipped in. Now, despite the fact that the child has developed a very severe fever and lung infection, which doctors believe could be difficult to save him from, his parents have tears of joy when they think about unknown strangers who sent in large sums of money to save their son.
Sixteen-month-old Balasubramaniam, was diagnosed with Severe Combined Immunodeficiency Syndrome - a condition where even the commonest of colds could deal a fatal blow. The only way to save him was a bone marrow transplant, which was well beyond the Port Trust labourer’s means, with a price tag of Rs 20 lakh. A week ago, as they lounged around the waiting room at the Sri Ramachandra Medical Centre, Murugan admits that he could not imagine raising that much money, “We have already lost two children like this. I desperately tried to save Bala by taking him to Mehta, Apollo and now SRMC, but the operation was too much,” he explains. They’d sent out letters to charitable organizations and printed appeals, but very little reaped returns.
One of his friends called Rahman, has been dabbling In social media promotions for film trailers and publicity, so he quietly tried to help on the medium that he was most comfortable with, “I started a twitter handle @HelpBabyBala and sent a basic appeal by tagging actors like Sivakarthikeyan and Vivekh. It was a force of habit for me,” he smiles. It was New Year’s Eve, but the Maan Karate star did a simple retweet. That set the ball rolling, “Within one hour it was trending and people started asking me where to send money. I didn’t know what to do, so I asked the baby’s father,” he explains.
They decided to start a bank account in the child’s name, which the bank pushed through in an hour despite just coming off a holiday. As soon as the account numbers were tweeted, the funds began to pour in, “I’ve gotten over a hundred calls from people in South Africa, Canada, Australia, an American called Gary. There’s a gentleman in Saudi Arabi who first sent Rs.35,000 and called again this morning to say that he had collected another one lakh for Bala,” said the astounded man.
Soul crushingly, Bala’s condition began to deteriorate two days ago and he was no longer viable for the surgery. “There is very little hope now, so we asked people to stop donating. But they say that we must pray and keep going. Their love and support is so great that Murugan is going to ask them if this unused money can be given to some other deserving child with the same condition,” says Rahman.
The tweet caught the attention of both Vijay and Sivakarthikeyan. Vijay was shooting for Puli in Pondicherry and so sent his fan club secretary to first go check whether the child’s case was genuine. “He called at 11 pm that night and took all the details. The next day he came there and after visiting the child, quietly gave us a cheque for Rs. 2 lakh from Vijay. He even put us on a call and he took time off shooting and told us that he would pray for the child’s safety,” says Murugan. Sivakarthikeyan’s wife actually visited the baby incognito and spent some time verifying whether the child’s condition was truly serious, before sending his manager the next day with a cheque for Rs.1 lakh.